Former OutSmart editor returns to Houston as TUTS’ marketing chief.
By Don Maines
Talking sex, politics, and religion with Kyle E. Young, the one-time editor of OutSmart, brings up the subject of right-wing Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick.
“I had the ‘privilege’ of being fired by Dan Patrick for being gay,” says Young, with a journalist’s knack for spotting a headline.
Young, who graduated from Houston’s Second Baptist School, holds a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film (RTF) from Texas Christian University.
Patrick hired Young as a sales representative at the populist talk-radio station that the lieutenant governor now owns.
Even “before coming out to my mother,” Young says, he told his supervisor at the radio station that he was gay. The next thing he knew, “Dan pulled me aside and basically fired me. He said, ‘I don’t think you’re happy here.’ I had neither the vocabulary nor the courage to do anything other than to leave.”
Young recently moved back to Houston after more than a decade in New York City. He is the new “marketing and partnerships pro/chief smile officer” at Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS). It’s a joyous “homecoming” for Young, but, oops, bad timing for Patrick.
“I am getting registered to vote, and certainly getting involved in the community,” he says. “I am excited and very inspired to use the skills I learned in New York and connect again with my little corner of the world.”
Young was born February 23, 1968, at Methodist Hospital and grew up in Briar Meadow, an idyllic-sounding neighborhood that straddles Richmond and Westheimer at Hillcroft.
“It was a place for riding bikes, and we had a neighborhood pool,” he says. “We worshipped at St. Luke’s Methodist Church, and I was very involved in church, especially in junior high and high school. But by attending Second Baptist School from kindergarten through 12th grade, I got a perspective that, even within Protestantism, there were differences. Meanwhile, I was such a closet case, having this internal battle about being gay. I tried to pray it away, but that wasn’t going anywhere.”
At TCU, Young began as a theater major (“It was my jam,” he says), but wound up with an RTF degree with minors in both journalism and art history.
After he returned to Houston, the position at the radio station teased his lifelong appreciation for marketing.
“Marketing has always been second nature to me,” he says. “I understand how to get people’s attention.”
Young produced radio spots for his clients, then promotions for the station, until someone finally asked him, “Why don’t you just become our marketing director?” Which he did.
After Patrick put a quick quietus on Young’s radio career, he “did a little of this and a little of that,” including penning articles for the Texas Triangle, a statewide LGBTQ publication, and earning a master’s degree in social work from the University of Houston.
“My career has unfolded in unpredictable and magical ways,” he says. “With each chapter, I’ve developed a richer array of skills, grounded in my ability to balance creativity with analytical thinking.”
Young parlayed his stint at OutSmart into sales and marketing jobs at Stages Repertory Theatre and Clear Channel Entertainment, which became Live Nation Entertainment.
In 2005, Young was lured to the Big Apple, where he created innovative platforms to drive a marketing relationship between American Express and Broadway. “We stuffed DVDs of Broadway shows into magazines,” he says. “Then came the call from ‘the Mouse,’ when Disney Theatrical Group (The Walt Disney Studios) enlisted Young to manage an annual budget of $2.25 million to market its Broadway productions and North American tours.
More opportunities followed, including an out-of-the-blue offer, in 2014, to become chief operating officer of the gym where he worked out.
“It felt very ‘close to home’ because most of the trainers and the clients grew out of the Broadway community,” he says. “One day, they asked me to be COO, and I said, ‘I don ’t know anything about being a COO.’ They said, ‘That’s great; we don’t either.’”
Young began the job “officing in somebody’s apartment.” The gym, Mark Fisher Fitness, expanded into two facilities serving more than 3,000 clients. In 2015, it was named one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. by Inc. magazine, and designated one of the best gyms in America by Men’s Health in 2016.
While home for the holidays in December, Young decided to take the job at TUTS and move back to Houston.
His partner, hairstylist Michael Girel, left a job on Park Avenue, “and we came back on the same plane,” Young says.
“I felt like I had done New York theater, and I feel like the universe is pointing me in the right direction with TUTS,” he says. “The first thing I had to do is go buy a car. We are still looking to buy a house, so we are living with my parents. I just celebrated my 50th birthday, and my mom’s packing my lunch every day for work.”
Young says OutSmart has had a lot to do with bringing him back to Houston.
“Every month it arrived in my mailbox, so I have watched it flourish and grow,” he says. “I have gotten to watch one of the most diverse cities in the country also become inclusive, with the LGBT community leading the way. I saw an opportunity to feel a sense of community connection through work that is so inspiring.”
This article appears in the April 2018 edition of OutSmart Magazine.